津軽塗Tsugaru Lacquer Ware
The making of this ware dates back to the beginning of the 17th century, when the fourth generation of leaders of the Tsugaru clan engaged craftsmen skilled in the making of lacquer ware. A production center became established toward the end of the 19th century and the craft developed from the traditional skills which had been acquired over the preceding period of approximately 300 years.
The continual process of refinement of techniques and the original ideas developed by the many craftsmen and women since then, are the sum total of the craft today.
Centered on Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture, no other traditional forms of lacquer ware are produced any further north in Japan. Inevitably there is a warmth and charm about this craft that is missing from a machine made product. A number of distinctive techniques are used. The one called nanako-nuri has the stylish feel of the kind of fine patterns found on some kimono cloths, whereas monsha-nuri has an elegant modern feel with its mat black ground. They produce pieces of furniture including tables, various pieces of tableware as well as fine pieces to be used in the tea ceremony. Trays and chopsticks are as finely produced as any other item and flower vases, too, glow with the fine traditions of this craft.
Made primarily in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, Tsugaru nuri represents the northern extremity of Japan’s lacquering tradition. The pieces possess the rich warmth found in all exceptional hand-made crafts. There are many styles of Tsugaru lacquering, from the chic style of Nanako-nuri lacquering, with a fine pattern that reminds one of Komon stencil painted kimonos, to the austere modern style of Monsha-nuri lacquering, which features a dark black matte finish.
Starting with the raw material of Japanese cypress, it requires approximately 50 steps to produce a Tsugaru lacquered product. The wooden base is covered with a cloth, and the base preparation is made for lacquering, which is essential to produce a durable product. Next, the colored lacquer is applied in countless layers, with many steps of polishing. In the final step, high quality lacquer produced in Japan is applied as a top coat, and assiduously polished to produce a long lasting product of exceptional beauty.